Team VH Insider
Bergen Catholic vs Ramapo
No. 1 seeded Bergen Catholic jumped out to a 10-0 lead over Ramapo in the semifinals of the Bergen County Jamboree Tuesday evening en route to a 70-55 victory. They will face rival Don Bosco in the final Feb. 23.
“We kind of knew coming in what we were going to get,” said Crusaders coach Billy Armstrong. “Ramapo is a good team, a tough team. They’re not going to quit to the very end and they didn’t. Coach [Joe] Sandberg does a great job with them.”
“We battled,” Sandberg said. “Obviously we knew going in they had a huge size advantage. Our game plan didn’t change - we were going to play man-to-man defense and we had to be physical.”
Ramapo showed its toughness, especially with the way senior Jason Oppler and junior KC Hunt drove to the basket.
“They were physical,” said Armstrong. “They beat us off the dribble. Defensively we did not look very good at all. I think it was one of our worst defensive performances but at the same time I have to give them credit. Jason Oppler (17 points) and KC Hunt (18) made plays at the rim, scoring and finishing.”
As the first half drew to a close Hunt drove and scored with three seconds left. The Crusaders inbounded the ball and senior Mike Koch launched the ball from well beyond the half-court line.
The ball swished through the net as the buzzer sounded. A nine point lead became a 12-point advantage. As a result Bergen took a 40-28 lead into intermission but Armstrong wasn’t completely satisfied with how the team got there. The Crusaders like to play an inside/out style offense but for some reason they were not playing that way much of the time.
“That’s how we play - inside/out,” said Armstrong. “Sometimes our guards put their heads down and go. I’m not saying anything that anybody doesn’t know. The more we get guys buying in to do those things the better we are. I think it’s our ability and our willingness and eagerness to sacrifice, not care what the box score says and just work to get the best shots we possibly can get. It’s no secret here, like I’m saying some magic formula.
“The ball has to go through Zach and Matt Zona. Zach was 5-of-6 in the first half. We took 32 shots and he took six. That’s not enough. If we can do that and get them touches it opens up. The threes that Jalen Leach hit today were big ones because the ball went inside/outside.” Early in the third quarter Ramapo got within 10 points but Zona scored from in close and Leach buried a three to boost the lead to 15. And the Raiders never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.
“I thought we were physical but they made some big shots,” said Sandberg. “They make a 75-foot three to steal a little momentum at the end of the half. Any time we got stops on the bigs someone would hit a big three. I’m proud of our kids. We played hard. “Obviously you can’t spot a very good team like that a lead like we did, especially with the size they have inside. I thought our kids battled hard. Bergen is a phenomenal team but our kids came and showed what we’re about and competed.”
Armstrong and company will take this week to prepare for another tough battle with their rival.
“Two really good teams,” he said. “I think we both deserve to be here. Hopefully it’s good entertainment. There have been good games between this year and last year. I don’t think you can beat it. Both teams are going to come and play very hard. We have to get back to the drawing board and clean up some things.”
Article By JC Baumuller
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